Safety rail snag saves yacht after collision

Only the mast is visible as workers try to untangle the collided vessels - photo by Marlborough Express
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It was a sorry look for both yacht and motorised catamaran this week in New Zealand as a barge tries to retrieve the situation after a collision between the two.

Police said DOC's 8.5 metre aluminium catamaran Waitohi and a private yacht, a 8.5m Herreshoff yacht owned by John Gardiner, had collided in Queen Charlotte Sound on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand about 10am yesterday.


Only a small section of the yacht's sail and the tip of the mast were visible above water. The two boats were snagged with the yacht's mast caught on a safety rail at the front of the catamaran, only the snag preventing the yacht from sinking into the deep waters of the Sound.

A barge was used to tow the boats to a nearby bay, and once in shallower water, workers were able to unhook the mast from the boat which was owned by the New Zealand's Department of Conservation. It was able to motor away.

The good news is that workers then pumped water from the yacht and used a hydraulic crane on a barge to lift it up. The yacht was towed to Picton alongside the barge.

There was one person on each boat. A St John South Island region spokesman said one patient from the Waitohi had been brought back to Picton on a private boat. He was taken to the Picton Medical Centre before being transferred to Wairau Hospital and was in a stable condition yesterday afternoon.

John Gardiner, the yacht owner, had been treated for hypothermia aboard the Coastguard boat and was taken back to Picton.

DOC Sounds area manager Roy Grose said the Havelock-based catamaran skipper had been travelling to Resolution Bay to work on tracks when the accident happened.Emergency services had arrived at the scene by 11am, including the Marlborough Coastguard boat with police and Picton volunteer firefighters on board.

However it's local boat owners, both private and commercial, who are being praised for their quick action to help after the collision.

Beachcomber boat Tiri Cat was the first to arrive at the accident scene. Skipper Joe Healey said he was taking three passengers out to Ship Cove when he saw the two boats entangled.

Mr Gardiner was in the water while the DOC worker was still on board his boat.

One of the Tiri Cat passengers helped Mr Healey pull the two men on board where they were given minor first aid, he said.

Within minutes other boats had arrived to help deal with the collision, which had left pieces of wood and Mr Gardiner's possessions floating in the water, Mr Healey said.

'Within 20 minutes there were six boats there and they were all locals and commercial operators. There were no authorities at that stage,' Mr Healey said.

'The swift response from commercial operators and locals will ultimately save lives.

'Coastguard save lives but it's the people that are closest to the scene of the accident, the first responders, that are important. There were so many out there that some vessels were turned away when they offered help.'

Tory Channel resident Joe Hebberley picked up the DOC worker, who is understood to have been knocked unconscious in the collision and suffered a head injury, and took him into Picton for medical treatment.

The worker spent the night at Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim, for observation and was reported to be in a stable condition.

A Bay of Many Coves resident picked up Mr Gardiner, who stayed to watch what was going to happen to his yacht, which he had been living in.

Coastguard Marlborough co-ordinator Richard Chapman said it was amazing how many people had gone to the rescue.

'Without the public we're all in trouble. We all help each other when something is wrong, and their help definitely affects the outcome of these situations. It makes our job a lot easier,' he said.
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